Toxic Fire at Hazardous Chemical Plant
By Thomas F. Schrager, Ph.D.

Oct. 6, 2006. A toxic fire at the EQ Industrial Services hazardous waste storage facility occurred early October 6, 2006 in Apex, NC. The facility reportedly contains many chlorine-containing or chlorinated compounds that are strong oxidizers and are highly combustible upon heating, as well as numerous other hazardous wastes from industrial and home sources. A large cloud of chlorine was released at the site and was reportedly burning. Chlorine is a yellowish greenish gas that causes a choking sensation upon contact. It is highly water soluble and so causes immediate and severe burning in mucous membranes, including the eyes, the mouth and the respiratory track. Coughing and difficulty breathing can rapidly ensue.

Inhalation of chlorine gas has been tied in the literature as one of the prominently reported causes of Reactive Airways Disease Syndrome (RADS), an asthma-like reaction to a single or multiple high level exposures to an irritating substance. This can lead to ongoing, permanent asthma-like symptoms. Sufficient inhalation of the gas can lead to respiratory failure. Hospital officials reported that most of 40-50 individuals sent to the emergency room for treatment were released.

Chlorine gas upon immediate contact with eyes can cause severe irritation or permanent damage to the corneas. Chlorine gas can be damped down by water spray but mixture can also produce hydrochloric acid, which can be highly damaging to the respiratory tract.

The oxidizing potential of chlorine reacts violently with many other metals, reducing agents and combustibles. Many of these compounds are expected to be found at a hazardous waste transfer station.






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The joint EPA-FDA Advisory on mercury and fish consumption: what it says and does not; what it means and does not. Clearing up the confusion [see . Guidelines, fact sheets and frequently asked questions [see Toxicology & the Home].

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Thomas F. Schrager,Ph.D, Editor

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